Melanoma survivors should all receive regular medical checkups that include a review of a patient’s medical history and a physical exam. It is important to be aware of any changes in your health or any issues that may occur due to cancer treatments. These regular appointments are also opportunities to check for physical and emotional repercussions that may develop months or years after treatment ends.
Knowing what to expect after melanoma treatments can help you and your caregivers to make lifestyle changes and other important decisions about the future.
What do I tell my doctor during a follow-up visit?
During your follow up medical appointments, you should tell your doctor about:
- Any emotions that you are experiencing such as depression, sadness, or anxiety
- Any symptoms that you think may be a sign that your cancer has returned
- Any pain
- Any physical problems that interfere with daily life, such as fatigue; difficulty with your bladder, bowel, or sexual function; difficulty concentrating; memory changes; trouble sleeping; and weight gain or loss
- Any medicines, vitamins, herbs, or other treatments you may be using
- Any changes in your family medical history, including any new cancers
Medical issues and recurrences are not always detected during follow-up visits. It is important for patients to be aware of their own health and to report any changes or problems to their healthcare provider/doctor.
How often should follow-up appointments be planned?
Depending on where a patient is in the post-treatment process, they may return to their doctor for a follow up appointment every three to four months during the first two to three years after treatment, and once or twice a year after that. All patients should speak with their doctor or health provider to discuss what their personal follow up schedule should be.
During follow up appointments, it is normal for your doctor to recommend tests to check for a recurrence or to screen for other types of cancer. Speak with your doctor about what tests you may require and what follow-up care plan is most appropriate for you. It is important for patients to speak with their doctor about any questions or concerns related to follow-up care and what to expect.
You may wish to have one doctor provide the follow up post-treatment care and another doctor to provide other medical care. Choosing a doctor that you feel comfortable with will make this process easier.
What should I talk to my doctor about after my treatment ends?
Once you have completed your treatment, it is a good idea to ask your doctor for a detailed care summary and follow-up plan. You may also want to ask the below questions so that you have a better understanding about your care and what to expect next.
- What treatments and drugs have I been given?
- How often should I have a routine checkup?
- Which doctor should I see for my follow-up cancer care?
- What are the chances that my melanoma will come back or that I will get another type of cancer?
- What follow-up tests, if any, should I have?
- How often will I need these tests?
- What signs and symptoms should I watch for?
- If I notice any symptoms, whom should I contact?
- What are the common long term and late effects of the treatment I received?
- What should I do to maintain my health and well being?
- What long term physical changes should I expect from the treatment I received?
- What emotional changes can I expect now that I have concluded treatment?
What medical information should patients keep?
Patients do not always see the same doctor for their follow-up care, so keeping the following information to share with your follow-up healthcare providers is important:
- Your specific cancer diagnosis (what type of cancer and stage)
- Date(s) of cancer diagnosis
- Results of any diagnostic test(s)
- Details of all cancer treatments, including locations and dates where treatment was received, names and doses of drugs, and types and dates or surgeries
- Contact information for all doctors and other health care professionals involved in your care
- Side effects and complications that occurred during and after treatment
- Medications received for any side effects – i.e. medication for pain, nausea, emotional support and nutritional supplements
- Identifying number and title of clinical trial (if you participated in a clinical trial)